An article in the International Herald Tribune, written in Berlin today by Judy Dempsey HERE covers the report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and compares it with a recent Italian report, both covering the subject of Europe’s defence capabilities. The Washington report reveals a lot about American disappointment with its European allies.
From the IHT – The report coincides with a major American reassessment of EU defense and security policy under which Washington would support a more muscular EU, provided that European defense spending was sufficient for a radical improvement in military capabilities on this side of the Atlantic…
The report focuses on 2001 to 2006, a period when the EU was deploying soldiers almost every year in new places, from Macedonia in the western Balkans to Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this time, the total number of European troops involved in foreign missions – peacekeeping and other military operations – increased to more than 80,000, from 65,000…
But military spending by most European countries over the same period was “negative or slightly positive,” the report says.
“Largely for political reasons, the EU member states cannot have any large increases in defense spending,” Guy Ben-Ari, one of the authors of the analysis published in Washington, said in an interview. “There are other pressing priorities – for example, social welfare programs – and particularly against the background of aging populations.”from 2001 to 2006, France, Britain and Spain spent more than 3 percent of gross domestic product on defense. But Italy spent 1.47 percent, and spending in Germany and Sweden sharply declined.
Giovanni Gasparini and Lucia Marta, authors of a separate report on EU defense spending published last month by the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome, suggested that Germany had “had difficulties in respecting its commitments” as a result of the drop in spending and said that a ‘feeble increase” in Italy’s defense budget had “made it difficult to maintain operational levels.”
The picture painted is one of complete inadequacy and failure on the part of the Europeans to live up to their side of the political bargain. America continues to deliver total political support to the EU and is getting zilch in return. The Italian authors try to offer as optimistic a view as they can about Europe, but really the counter-view they paint is laughable, as follows –
At the same time, while total troop levels fell by 12 percent across the bloc, defense investment per soldier rose by 26 percent.
“If this trend continues it may mean smaller, better-equipped European militaries in the years to come,” the report says.
On the other hand, it may just mean smaller and higher paid militaries in the years to come. The Italian report continues,
Also, even though defense spending among some of the EU’s big and medium-sized countries remains controversial domestically, security expenditures are increasing on police forces, protection of ports and airports, and developing new intelligence systems.
The Washington report doubts whether the low spending being made will result in improved military capabilities.
Ben-Ari said that public willingness to accept such increases may reflect support for a “soft power” approach to security preparedness and conflict resolution.
This raises questions of whether the European Union is more interested in strengthening its “soft power” profile than in projecting the image of a bloc prepared to use hard power as well, and of whether increases in security spending will ultimately result in improved military capabilities.
In plain English the Americans are saying that the EU is not interested in making any commitment to increased defense spending at all, and will not have anything to offer America in terms of sharing the defence load around the word. This leaves the Bush Administration’s whole European policy which Bush has pursued for the last five years high and dry, and the world overly exposed to powerful new military operators such as Russia.
The report puts it like this –
…the Bush administration has backed the idea of a militarily stronger European Union. Victoria Nuland, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, in a speech in Paris three months ago, made this clear but added that it would require a radical improvement in military capabilities, with a far more focused policy on defense spending.
Well Victoria (Pictured). It ain’t gonna happen.
Bush just doesn’t get it. He was surprised when the Europeans failed to back his attempts to offer NATO membership to Georgia and the Ukraine, while he he gave full backing to EU requests to support the Kosovan independence moves from Serbia. With Europe and therefore the USA having inadequate military power to back up these strategies, Putin, who is spending 50% of his GDP on defence, and who pays his troops far less than Europeans and as a result gets far more bang for each buck, only has to issue the minutest military threat, and the white flags are flying in Brussels.
Whenever the next US President gets around to looking at the situation, surely he will find that America is wasting its time giving all its support to the EU, and that it is time to move on to pastures new. America would prefer dealing with the EU than with Moscow, but the realities of the situation are that America will have little choice but to change allegiances, and negotiate with the Russians. The EU is unwilling to defend itself, and so others who will accept the primary responsibility of government, that is to defend, will gradually usurp their power.